Danny Etling was flushed out of the pocket, eyes glancing across the field. Then, he found him. A bullet of 20 yards found the hands of Deangelo Yancey. The freshman receiver had two defenders draped on him, but he still found the football and placed both feet in bounds.
It was one of those plays that drew a raucous reaction. The players cheered and celebrated. Even the coaches let out an ooh or ah. It was just a brief occurrence in another practice, but it was more than just one play.
This is the duo Purdue fans are hanging their Hazell hats on. It's the promising, rocket-armed quarterback and his top target, the exciting, playmaking receiver.
Etling has been touted enough to last a lifetime. Could he be the next in the ‘Cradle of Quarterbacks' tradition? If yes, it'll be much in part of Yancey's sure hands.
The 55-yard touchdown catch by Yancey, the first score of his career, was a quiet highlight amid a beatdown handed by Nebraska. There were 39 seconds left in the game and approximately 39 Purdue fans left in Ross-Ade Stadium. He can hope for a louder celebration on the next one.
But the praise has been flowing from his head coach. Even before Yancey first took the field, Darrell Hazell said the receiver has "Sunday potential." That's quite the confident prediction.
Yancey stands at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, decent size for a receiver matched with good speed. But it's those hands that make him special. Put the ball in his vicinity and he'll find a way to catch it.
"He's the guy making plays," Hazell said of Yancey this week. "He's the go-to guy on offense when the ball's in the air."
When Etling was scrambling on that practice play, trying to evade the pressure and get some yardage, he knew where to look.
For now, Purdue's offense remains in complete disarray. But as the Boilermakers work toward consistent production—the next step toward success—the freshman connection is forming. Etling and Yancey are comfortable with each other; their work in practice has shown since August, and it's now moving to the game field.
A new-look, pass-happy offense will give Purdue a better chance to move the football. Etling will be learning and growing on the fly. But he'll have his safety net at receiver whenever he needs it.
Those Sundays that Hazell mentioned are a long ways away. Yancey has a lot more maturing to do as a player. But he's just getting started.
That spectacular snag in practice is just a brief glimmer of what could be to come.